The Good: Decent characters, Generally decent story
The Bad: Acting is generally unimpressive, Not the comedy it is billed as
The Basics: In an ultimately average movie, the principle actors give blase performances that make In Good Company a disappointment from a decent writer/director.
Scarlett Johansson is rapidly becoming one of those actresses I want to like but continue to find myself underwhelmed by. I see her appeal - a lot easier than that of Kirsten Dunst! - but I have come to realize that she's not used enough to her benefit (like the terrible Lost In Translation, reviewed here, where her performance is all that makes the character worth watching) or is appearing in a number of roles that she is simply not used enough (like The Prestige, reviewed here!). In Good Company, where Johansson receives third billing falls into the latter category, where she ends up more as a supporting player than an actual star.
When fifty-something advertising sales executive Dan Foreman's company is bought out by a major conglomerate, Foreman finds a twenty-six year old taking his job, despite the youth having no experience in the field. Carter Duryea takes over feeling the insecurity of his personal life clashing with the expectations of his professional life. When his wife leaves him and he gets into a car accident, he starts dating Foreman's daughter Alex, who is now studying at NYU. Carter and Dan clash professionally and personally over their life and job decisions.
And the main problem is that In Good Company is billed as a comedy and it's not terribly funny. There are moments that are amusing, but the movie is largely a dramatic presentation of the changing world of business and the problematic aspects of multinational conglomerates. The romantic plot between Carter and Alex is almost an afterthought and it never seems as genuine as the conflicts between Carter and Dan.
So, the first people this movie is not for are those looking for a romantic comedy. You'd likely be disappointed. On the business end, the movie's views on the changing world of business make some very good points; there are dangers in monopolies, nothing beats the personal touch and inexperienced suits ought not to replace experienced individuals who have proven their professional worth. But the movie's answers are all too simple. In Good Company effectively ignores the fact that the world is changing in favor of creating a statement that boils down to "the business world was better before multinational corporations." Thus, anyone looking for an interesting, compelling business movie with real insight is also going to be disappointed.
The characters are archetypes, or at least "types" more than individuals. Dan is a seasoned businessman who is always clever enough to get out of situations using the tried and true techniques he has developed over years and years. Carter, conversely, is an up and coming talent who seems to lose all of this innate talent and drive when his personal life hits a rut. I didn't buy that. Overachievers have a tendency to drive themselves into new projects when old ones collapse, it's part of the way they fail to deal with failure (yea overachiever defense mechanisms!).
And Alex is just a stereotype of the 18 year-old who doesn't know what she wants. She's a jock who wants to be intellectual - complete with the tired rumors that she's a lesbian. There's no real chemistry between Alex and Carter. She's amused by him and he's honest with her, but beyond that, there's nothing terribly compelling about their coming together. Instead, the direction of their relationship is completely believable.
But it's not interesting to watch. In Good Company has moments of entertainment, but the bulk of it fails at even that. I write that without rancor; I was looking to this movie to continue a string a decent movies I've seen lately.
What sold me on seeing it in the first place was Topher Grace and Scarlett Johansson in the previews. Grace is essentially playing the same role he did on That 70s Show, in a modern corporate setting. He does not do anything significantly different with his acting talents here and that was disappointing. Johansson barely has enough screentime to be labeled as a nonentity. Her character is . . . well, dull, so the only way to classify her acting here as decent is to acknowledge that she sold her character as dull. There is nothing terribly superlative about Alex or Johansson's performance.
In Good Company features decent actors in bit roles. David Paymer appears as Mort, a worker whose performance puts his job in question. The always-wonderful Philip Baker Hall appears as an angry-at-youth businessman and lends some gravitas to the role. There's even a cameo by Malcolm McDowell that is worthwhile. That the bit roles in the movie draw my attention and praise more than two of the three leads is not a good sign.
Dennis Quaid keeps the movie watchable as Dan Foreman. Quaid is articulate and believable as an aging businessman. Quaid lends strong body language to conveying his character's moods and that is effective for creating the character the audience most empathizes with.
Still, it's not enough. Paul Weitz, writer and director of In Good Company recently hit success with the brilliant satire American Dreamz (also using Dennis Quaid, reviewed here!) and before that with the surprisingly good About A Boy (reviewed here!). So it's not that he cannot write and/or direct fabulous movies. It's just that in this case, he doesn't.
For other works with Clark Gregg, please be sure to check out my reviews of:
Iron Man 2
The West Wing
A.I.: Artificial Intelligence
State And Main
The Usual Suspects
For other movie reviews, be sure to visit my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing of all the films I have reviewed!
© 2012, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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